Born in a remote village in Punjab, Satnam Singh created history in 2015 when he became the first Indian basketball player to be drafted into the NBA by the Dallas Mavericks as their 52nd overall pick. Since then, the 28-year-old has experienced many highs and few lows in his basketball career.

Satnam Singh poses for a photograph during the interaction.

Representing the country is every athlete’s dream and Satnam achieved that as early as 13-years-old when he was selected for the Indian squad at the 2009 FIBA Asia U-16 Championship in Malaysia. He made his senior team debut at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship and also appeared at the 2014 Asia Championship. After participating in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, Satnam was key for India at the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualification, but failed to prevent a bottom-placed finish in their group.

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Unfortunately, Satnam’s basketball career was brought to an end by a two-year ban handed by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), after he tested positive for Higenamine Beta-2-Agonist. Ever since, Satnam has ventured into the professional wrestling foray, joining All Elite Wrestling (AEW). Standing at 7 feet 4 inches, he made his television debut in 2022, and now has plans to bring it to India.

In an exclusive interaction with Hindustan Times, the burly man from Ludhiana spoke about his formative years, basketball, plans with AEW and comeback plans. Here are the excerpts-

When did you start playing basketball?

I was very young when I started playing basketball in 2004-05. So since then, I began my training in Ludhiana and then I played in the Indian team, Punjab team. After that I got a sponsorship from IMG Reliance and they sent me to the USA in 2010. I trained there.

Who introduced you first to the sport?

My father’s friend. To be honest, it was my father’s friend and then he introduced me to Mr. RS Gill. RS Gill introduced me to the basketball coaches in Ludhiana and then they selected me.

How was your time in Florida at the IMG Academy?

I had a good time at the IMG Academy in Florida. Initially, I faced a lot of challenges, like talking in English to coaches, teachers or students. But after a point, everything became fine.

In the past, there have been accusations towards the Basketball Federation of India regarding alleged selection bias. Did you have any such experience and do you have a message for the officials running the sport in India?

I don’t know about it now. A lot happened in the past and we would get to know about it. Now, I can only tell them that, “please improve yourselves and give chances to the younger players, please don’t play with them.

Are basketball facilities better in your hometown now, and in the country in general?

When I was a child, we didn’t have any facilities. But now it is better. Back then we didn’t have anything. We had a stone ground.

Any thoughts on your NBA story?

When I got drafted, it was my dream. It was the dream of my entire country on my shoulders, which I needed to complete. When it was completed, then only I realised what I did, which consisted of 10 years of hard work, the commitment of my teammates, the dedication of my parents, it was all because of them.

What are your plans with AEW and in wrestling?

I have signed with AEW now, and I stay with them always. Every week we travel and we have matches also. We are planning to bring AEW to India and expose it here so that the people in this country know what it is. This is important. The youth should know that something can be done with wrestling too. Children need to find something, analyse your health and power, and see what you can do. It is not important that you need to do sports, study, become a businessman, very important.

Any basketball comeback plans as your doping ban is over?

No comeback plans. I don’t have any plan to come back there after whatever happened to me, I am done. I am focussed in wrestling right now.

(The interview was facilitated by Eurosport or Watch AEW Dynamite LIVE on EUROSPORT and EUROSPORT HD from 06:30 Hrs (06:30 am IST) onwards on Thursday, 7th December, 2023. The Eurosport channel can now be streamed on the discovery+ app.)

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